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Thursday, 11 March 2010
Page: 2245

Mr BUTLER (Parliamentary Secretary for Health) (11:17 AM) —I have some comments to make in relation to both bills. The Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 and the Healthcare Identifiers (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010 seek to establish a single national healthcare identifier system for patients, healthcare providers and healthcare provider organisations. This system will not only facilitate more reliable healthcare related communications and the management of patient information but provide the core infrastructure to develop a national e-health records system.

I would like to thank the members for their contributions to the debate on these bills. E-health has a crucial role to play in ensuring the success of the healthcare reform agenda which the government is currently undertaking. The development of a national e-health system will improve safety and quality and patient convenience by ensuring that the right people have access to the right information at the right time.

Governments across the country have invested considerable amounts of time, money and energy in developing e-health initiatives, but until we have a national healthcare identifier system in place there will continue to be a barrier to developing a well connected, national healthcare system. The Healthcare Identifiers Service will establish the infrastructure necessary to support future e-health development by overcoming the fragmented approach that currently exists when it comes to identifying patients and healthcare providers. Combined with a national authentication system, and the appropriate regulatory support, healthcare identifiers will deliver the access and identity requirements critical to ensuring confidence in the way a patient’s health information is handled in an electronic environment.

The bills seek to limit the use of healthcare identifiers to activities regularly associated with the delivery of healthcare, including for communication and information management purposes and other specified purposes, and to establish privacy protections to support the appropriate handling of healthcare identifiers. The government is committed to working with a broad range of patients and healthcare providers to educate them about the healthcare identifiers and the benefits associated with them.

I am aware that there is considerable community and stakeholder interest in this legislation and in the government’s e-health agenda more broadly. That is why the government conducted two rounds of public consultation on the policy proposals and draft exposure legislation in 2009. To further allow as much consultation as possible on these bills the government has referred both bills to Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for consideration.

Healthcare identifiers are an essential building block to developing a national e-health system, which will over time improve the way in which healthcare is delivered in this country. This will help to ensure that as a nation we are in a position to continue delivering quality health care to all Australians. I commend the bills to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.